PEARL HARBOR -- As part of a broader advancement in cooperation between the United States and China, the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) and the People's Liberation Army-Navy [PLA(N)] participated in training scenarios off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii, Sept. 9.
The three participating PLA(N) ships, a Fuqing-class fleet oiler Hongzehu (AOR 881), a Lulu-class destroyer Qingdao (DDG 113) and a Jiangkai-class frigate Linyi (FFG 547), had just completed a port visit at Joint Base Harbor Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Sept. 6-9. This was the first visit by PLA(N) ships to Pearl Harbor since 2006. The at-sea training included search and rescue, military medicine, communications, pipe patching and firefighting. Capt. John Banigan, commanding officer of Lake Erie, said the training helps establish clear paths of communication, builds trust, and encourages multilateral cooperation to address common regional security challenges. "With this opportunity, we demonstrated our ability to operate and communicate at sea with the PLA(N)," Banigan said. "Having all Pacific nation navies working together on common maritime problems advances our goal of ensuring security, stability, peace and prosperity in the region."
During the search and rescue exercise, which Banigan highlighted as contributing to a core capability that the U.S. Navy practices regularly with navies throughout Pacific, one rigid-hulled inflatable boat from the Lake Erie and one rescue boat from the Qingdao responded to a distressed vessel that had a fire, wounded sailor and was taking on water. Sailors from both of the nations worked together throughout the scenario to put out the fire, pipe and shore the leak and assist the wounded.
Damage Controlman Fireman Jacob Christopher Barr, a search and rescue swimmer aboard Lake Erie, said this is the first time he had worked with PLA(N). "The exercise went smoothly thanks to the quick reactions to situations by both the U.S. Navy and PLA(N)," Barr said. Information Technician 2nd Class Wenbin Wu, who was born in China but moved to New York City as a teenager in 1998, stood in as a translator aboard Lake Erie. "This is a great opportunity for our Navy and China's Navy to build a relationship based on the training exercises today," Wu said. A productive relationship with the PLA(N) is an essential part of the U.S. Navy's ongoing rebalance strategy, providing an opportunity to deal with common challenges that all Pacific nations face: the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, search and rescue, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, narco-trafficking, piracy, and protecting the free use of the seas and the global commons like space and cyberspace. Adm. Cecil Haney, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, said activities this past week in Hawaii and San Diego demonstrate the U.S. Navy's commitment to building a positive and constructive relationship with the Chinese Navy, where they contribute to regional stability as a member of the community of nations. "Our commitment to exploring closer cooperation with China must occur on the foundation of existing U.S. alliances and other partnerships in the region," said Haney. "We want to work with China, our allies and partners to create a shared future that deals with security challenges faced by all Pacific nations. Port visits, senior leader dialogues, bilateral engagements and multilateral exercises will help the U.S. and China work toward common goals while also candidly addressing our differences."